September in Scottish History
- In 1971, the sole remaining gas street lamp in Glasgow was lit for the last time. This signalled the end of an era – the age of the “leeries”, or lamplighters, which began in 1718 with oil lamps. The gas lamps were phased out in favour of electric street lighting.
- This day in 1720 saw the official marriage ceremony of Prince James Francis Edward Stewart and the Polish Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska. The marriage took place at the Italian Cathedral of Monte Fiascone, and the union led to the birth of Charles Stewart in Rome in 1720. Maria Clementina Sobieska was one of Europe’s richest heiresses and brought the Stuarts a cash injection. Princess Maria Clementina Sobieska The Polish Princess had been kidnapped on her way to the original wedding the preceding year to “The Old Pretender”. She escaped, and had married James by proxy when he was away trying to raise support for the 1719 Rising. After the Rising was quashed, Jacobite hopes were raised in the form of the infant prince Charles.
- Bill Shankly, arguably the greatest football manager ever, was born in Glenbuck, Ayrshire on this day in 1913.His early career saw him winning seven caps for Scotland as a professional footballer. At the age of 33, Shankly was approaching the end of his playing days, so when the 1946-47 season brought professional football back post-war, Shankly embarked on a new career as a manager. After spells at the helms of northern clubs such as Grimsby and Huddersfield, he was appointed chairman of Liverpool in 1959. At this time Liverpool was languishing in the Second Division, with a crumbling stadium, and disorder in the committee ranks. Shankly turned this situation around and elevated Liverpool to the top of the league, the envy of all other clubs. Liverpool became synonymous with football, as well as music, in the sixties, when Liverpool F.C. won the F.A. cup in the 1965 season. A European trophy followed in the form of the UEFA cup. Bill Shankly, who died of a heart attack in 1981, will always be remembered as a charismatic legend of British football.
- This day in 1834 saw the death of Sir Thomas Telford, the pioneering engineer, road, bridge and canal builder. From humble beginnings in Westerkirk, Dumfrieshire, an encouraging patron supported Telford ‘s appointment to supervise the construction of the Ellesmere Canal in 1793. Nicknamed “The Colossus of Roads”, he became chief civil engineer of an innovative scheme to improve communications in the Highlands, following a survey of the military roads created by General Wade during the Jacobite Rebellion. Thomas Telford Telford also oversaw the construction of the Caledonian Canal, linking 60 miles of freshwater inlets, as well as building nearly 1,000 miles of roads and 120 bridges over a 20 year period. He gained a reputation as the finest civil engineer of his day. Work outside Scotland included the construction of the Menai suspension bridge, the Gotha canal in Sweden, and the aqueduct at Pont Cysylite, on Ellesmere Port, proclaimed by Sir Walter Scott as “the most impressive work of art I have ever seen.” Telford was buried in Westminster Cathedral, having died penniless, the result of a prodigious talent who often undertook projects without being paid.
- On this day in 1650, Cromwell defeated the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar. In 1650, the Covenanter forces sided with Charles ll against Oliver Cromwell. After a defeat at Leith, Cromwell retreated to Dunbar. The English troups were attacked by the Scottish army, led by David Leslie, but on the muddy slopes of the Lammermuirs, Cromwell emerged victorious. The site had been the scene of an earlier battle in 1296, and the Battle of Dunbar marked the first time campaign medals were used.
- This day in 1797 saw rioting on the streets of Glasgow, as weavers expressed their anger at wage cuts. Workers burned their looms in the streets, and bricks were thrown at magistrates and soldiers, in protest at the city manufacturers’ proposal to reduce the scale of wages. The disorder resulted in soldiers opening fire on the insurgents and six people were killed.
- On this day in 1964 the Forth Road bridge was opened to the public. Construction had began in 1958, and at 6,156 feet long, with a centre span of 3300 feet, the suspension bridge spanning the River Forth at South Queensferry outside Edinburgh was the longest in Europe at that time.
- On a rainy night on the 4th September 1962, the last of the famous green and yellow tramcars ran in Glasgow. The final scheduled tram ran from Dalmuir to Auchenshuggle in the city’s East End, and marked the demise of a transportation system dating from August 1872. More than 200,000 Glaswegians turned out to bid a poignant farewell to the trams.
- In 1750 on this day the poet Robert Fergusson was born in the Canongate in Edinburgh. Fergusson’s vivid poetic accounts of the life and characters of Edinburgh’s old town, such as the remarkable long poem on Edinburgh “Auld Reekie” and “The Daft Days” brought him much fame. His first poems for The Weekly magazine were written in English, but his use of the vernacular of Scots, and did much to revive the language, and showed a vigour and assurance not seen since the Makars. His verse was to have influence on the national bard, Robert Burns, who wrote “my elder brother in misfortune, by far my elder brother in the muse”. Fergusson suffered from ill health all his life, and died in 1774 in the Edinburgh Bedlam at the age of 24. Burns erected a memorial stone over his long-neglected grave in Canongate Kirkyard.
- On this day in 1808 John Home, the Scottish playwright, historian and minister, died. Home outraged the Church when his verse tragedy “Douglas” enjoyed a successful run in Edinburgh after its first performance in 1757. The kirk authorities were outraged by Presbyterian minister excelling in the world of theatre, which they strongly disapproved of. The play transferred to Covent Garden to huge acclaim a year later, and Home resigned from the ministry.
- On this day in 1715, John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar, unfurled the standard of the Old Pretender at Braemar. Mar raised the standard of behalf of James Francis Edward Stuart , thus starting the first of the major Jacobite Rebellions. The rising failed, largely due to Mar’s incompetence, after an inconclusive battle at Sheriffmuir meant that the Jacobites had lost the initiative. The Earl and James fled to France, where Mar remained in exile until his death. He was known as “Bobbing John” because of his vacillating political allegiance.
- On this day in 1876, the Scottish physician and physiologist John James Macleod was born near Dunkeld. After studying medicine at Aberdeen and Leipzig, Macleod became head of the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto. An expert in sugar metabolism and diabetes, he was approached by Canadian surgeon Frederick Banting, who had realised that if he could isolate the hitherto elusive pancreatic hormone, this may provide a treatment for diabetes. Though Macleod initially scorned his idea, Banting’s persistent badgering paid off and he was allowed to join the department to work on his idea.Banting and his co-workers did indeed manage to isolate the hormone, and after diabetic dogs were successfully treated, eventually the ever-sceptical Macleod was convinced, and named it insulin. Macleod and Banting shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1926 and Macleod returned to Aberdeen as Professor of Physiology in 1928, dying there in 1935.
- On the 7th of September 1736, Captain Porteous was dragged from prison and lynched by an angry mob in Edinburgh. The “Porteous Riots” had erupted in April 1736, when Andrew Wilson, a smuggler, was hanged in the Grassmarket for robbing a customs officer. The public rioting that followed Wilson’s death was quashed by the locally born John Porteous, when he ordered his troops to open fire on the angry crowd, killing and wounding up to 30 people. Porteous was sentenced to death but later reprieved, leading to the lynch mob descending in fury on the prison, enraged that Porteous’s appeal had been successful, and that he’d escaped the fate that had been meted out to a common man. The angry growd stormed the Tolbooth, escorted Porteous to the Grassmarket, and hanged him from a dyer’s pole. Incidents of the Porteous Riots are used by Walter Scott in “The Heart of Midlothian”.
- This day in 1836 saw the birth of Henry Campbell Bannerman, the British Prime Minister. Born in Glasgow and educated at Glasgow and Cambridge, Bannerman became the Liberal MP for Stirling in 1868, a position he held until his death. He climbed the parliamentary ranks, serving as Secretary for Ireland during Gladstone’s administration in 1884 and entering the cabinet as Secretary for War in 1886, before becoming leader of the Liberal Party in 1899. Bannerman became Prime Minister in 1905 following Balfour’s resignation, and led his party to a landslide victory in the 1906 general election. His brilliant cabinet included Asquith, Lloyd George, and Winston Churchill. Ill health forced Bannerman to hand over the leadership to Asquith, and he died two weeks later in 1908.
- On this day in 1912, Alexander MacKendrick, the US born Scottish film director, screenwriter and teacher was born. MacKendrick was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and his family emigrated to Scotland soon after his birth. “Sandy” grew up in Glasgow and entered the world of cinema following an art school education and working on information productions during wartime. He was responsible for some of Ealing Studio’s most classic works, and in 1949 he directed Whisky Galore!, an adaptation of Compton MacKenzie’s iconoclastic tale set, and largely filmed, in the Hebrides. After the satirical wit of The Man in the White Suit (1951), and the dark, macabre comedy The Ladykillers in 1955, MacKendrick was enticed to America. In the U.S. he directed the critically acclaimed The Sweet Smell of Success, a sharp satire on the world of a New York gossip columnist. The film was a box-office failure, however, and the tensions between MacKendrick and the film’s star, Burt Lancaster, undermined MacKendrick’s subsequent career. He happily abandoned his cinematic career, after directing three more films, including A High Wind in Jamaica, in favour of teaching film at the California Institute of Fine Arts.
- This day in 1820 saw the hanging and beheading of John Baird and Andrew Hardie in Stirling, following the Battle of Bonnymuir in April. The Radicals, who were on strike from the weaving communities in outrage at decreased wages, had marched from Glasgow towards the Carron Iron Works in Falkirk. However, their ranks had been infiltrated by government agents and they were in fact being guided to an ambush with troops outside the village of Bonnybridge. During the battle, a Lieutenant of the 10th Hussars received a wound to the hand, a sergeant was severely wounded, and four Radicals were wounded. Following the skirmishes, 88 charges of treason were brought against men from across central Scotland, but Hardie and Baird were made an example of. Nineteen other radicals, including the 15 year old Alexander Johnstone, were transported to the penal colonies of New South Wales. Hardie’s declaration ‘I die a martyr to the cause of truth and liberty’, signalled the end of the “Radical War”.
- This day in September, 1513, saw James IV killed in battle at Flodden Field, near Branxton, in Northumberland. The opposing English and Scottish armies, led by the Earl of Surrey and James IV respectively, were roughly similar in size, numbering between 20 and 30,000 men. The initial position on Flodden Hilll favoured by the Scots was promising. However, the English guns found it easy to pick off the Scots. Both forces had sophisticated artillery, but the lighter and more manoeuvreable weaponry used by the English was more suited to the rain-soaked conditions of the hill. The carnage among the Scottish forces was heavy, reputed to be close to 10,000 men, including the king, nine earls, fourteen lords and a handful of prominent clerics, including the Archbishop of St.Andrews.
- Alexander Nasmyth, the Scottish painter and architect notable for his portraits and landscapes, was born on this day in 1758. Nasmyth worked for the portraitist Allan Ramsay, who instilled in him the Enlightenment concepts of man’s relationship to nature and the landscape. He set himself up as a portrait painter in 1778, but turned to landscape as a preferred subject following a trip to Italy and being exposed to the classical art there. Alexander Nasmyth His fascination with Roman and Greek facades led to him producing architectural plans for classical caprices, and St. Bernard’s Well on the Water of Leith in Edinburgh was built according to his specifications. Nasmyth’s most famous painting is his portrait of his friend and fellow radical, Robert Burns. A polymath typical of the time, Nasmyth also explored optical science, theatrical scene-painting, and naval engineering.
- On this day in 1543 Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in the security of Stirling Castle. Although only six days old at the time, Mary’s coronation took place in the castle chapel following the death of her father, James V.
- On this day in 1547, the Scots were defeated by the English at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, or Falside, near Edinburgh. The battle was sparked by the “Rough Wooing”; the English demands that the ten-year-old Edward VI should marry Mary Queen of Scots, aged five. The military campaign by Henry VIII on the Borders followed the reneged agreement by the Scots Parliament that the two crowns would be united by marriage. The battle was fought at Pinkie Cleugh (cleugh meaning narrow glen in Gaelic) outside Musselburgh. The Scottish forces had the strength of numbers, about 36,000 in contrast to the English 16,000, but were lacking in discipline. The English troups, led by the ambitious and experienced Duke of Somerset, slaughtered the Scottish forces, which were weak in cavalry and led by the uncertain Earl of Arran. It was estimated that 15,000 Scots were killed, and 1500 were captured, whereas English fatalities amounted to only 500. However the battle proved counter-productive for the English, whose distinctly “rough wooing” of the infant Mary precipitated her marriage to the French Dauphin, dashing English hopes. The Battle at Pinkie Cleugh can be regarded as the first “modern” battle on British soil; featuring combined arms, co-operation between infantry, artillery and cavalry and, most remarkably, a naval bombardment in support of land forces.
- Today in 1771 saw the birth of Mungo Park at Foulshiels, near Selkirk. On qualifying as a doctor from Edinburgh University, Park moved to London where he was appointed assistant surgeon on a expedition to Sumatra, under the direction of the botanist Sir Joseph Banks. Following this successful trip Park set off on a expedition to the unexplored territory of the Gambia. Mungo Park This arduous exploration was undertaken for pure scientific discovery, and, unlike many of his contemporaries, with a disregard for the establishing of trade routes. Park managed to explore the upper reaches of the Niger and map its progress, despite being taken prisoner by tribes. The unpretentious Park returned to London via the only means of transport, a slave ship, arriving back two years after his departure, having long been given up for dead. Africa called again for Park in 1804, when he was invited to head a government expedition to complete his exploration of the Niger. In contrast to the light party of Park’s first expedition, this time around, his entourage consisted of 40 Europeans, and the trip was blighted by the rainy season. The team was decimated by fever and dysentery, and only 11 of the original party reached the Niger. The disastrous expedition peaked in the rapids of Bussa in Nigeria, as Park and his remaining companions met a watery end on the river. During his first exploration in Africa Park kept a journal, which was later published as “Travels into the Interior of Africa”. Today, Mungo Park’s statue stands in Selkirk High Street.
- On this day in 1297, William Wallace led his troops to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Wallace defeated Edward I in this great military victory, which established him as the legitimate leader of Scottish resistance. John Balliol had surrendered to the English, and Edward regarded Scotland as his domain, making a triumphant tour to Scotland and removing the Stone of Destiny from Scone. Edward imposed John de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey, as Governor, sparking a revolt that was led by Wallace in the south-west, and Andrew Murray in the north-east. Wallace and Murray raised a band of enthusiastic volunteers, although the English troops rallied by Surrey and Cressingham from Berwick were, in contrast, well-equipped, imposing, and confident in their superiority. The Scottish troops congregated on Abbey Craig (now the site of the Wallace Monument) when the English arrived on the south bank. The impatient Cressingham led the English troops over the narrow wooden Stirling Bridge, and the Scots attacked, leaving the bridge choked with bodies. Cressingham was one of the first casualties in the massacre, and Surrey retreated south as far as the Tweed. Wallace returned to recapture Berwick and raid Northumberland and Cumberland.
- This historic day in 1997 saw the Referendum on Devolution in Scotland which approved the creation of a new Scottish Parliament. In the 1990s, the Labour Party had revived the idea of devolution and, on their return to power in 1997, the first moves were made. Referendum The referendum received an overwhelming “Yes” vote in favour of establishing a Scottish assembly with tax-raising powers, with 74.3 per cent voting for a Scottish parliament and 63.5 per cent in favour of it having tax-raising powers. The election was the first in the UK to contain an element of proportional representation, and Labour were returned as the largest single party, winning 56 of the 129 seats, only 9 short of an overall majority. The Scottish National Party gained 35 seats, the Conservative Party 18, and the Liberal Democrats 17, while the remaining 3 seats were taken by independents and smaller parties. The Scottish Parliament was formally opened by the Queen on 1 July 1999, with Labour politician Donald Dewar invested as the first minister, at the helm of a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
- On this day in 1931 Bill Simpson, the Scottish television and stage actor, was born. He achieved national fame in the title role of the BBC TV series, “Dr.Finlay’s Casebook”, in the 1960s. This popular drama, detailing the life of a rural doctor, was filmed in the town of Callander which became the fictional ‘Tannochbrae’.
- This date marks the death of William McNab, the curator of the Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, in 1848. McNab was one of the greatest of 19th century Scottish gardeners, responsible for reviving the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, elevating it from a state of neglect into one of the world’s great plant collections. In this position, McNab was responsible for moving 4,000 plant species, including trees, from a site on Leith Walk, to the present garden at Inverleith.
- On this day in 1953 Sir James Hamilton, the Scottish Politician, died. Hamilton, the Duke of Abercorn, was the First Governor of Northern Ireland, from 1922 to 1945.
- John Smith, the Labour Party leader, was born on this day in 1938. Smith was born in Dalmally and studied at Glasgow University, before being called to the bar in 1967. He entered the House of Commons as Labour MP for Lanarkshire North in 1970 and served as Secretary for Trade, prior to becoming opposition front bench spokesman on economic and industrial issues in 1979. A move to the position of shadow chancellor in 1988 consolidated his reputation, and Smith was elected Labour party leader in 1992, following Neil Kinnock’s resignation. A highly respected figure, Smith’s unexpected death from a heart attack in 1994 prompted a deep sense of loss in Scotland,as Smith was felt to be a great potential national leader.
- This day in 1644 saw the Battle of Aberdeen, when the Marquis of Montrose captured the city. Aberdeen was one of six campaigns that year with Montrose victorious at the helm, following his appointment as King’s Lieutenant-General in Scotland in August. The Marquis, James Graham, had been one of the four dignitaries who drew up the National Covenant in 1638, however, his refusal to support the the Scottish Parliament’s union with Cromwell’s Roundheads led to his imprisonment in Edinburgh Castle in 1643. James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose Montrose led his undisciplined rabble of 1500 Irish and Scottish troops north, following their victory at Tippermuir on the 1st of September. There followed the long remembered sack of Aberdeen. Montrose withdrew towards Speyside, and was eventually defeated by Covenanters led by David Leslie at the Battle of Philiphaugh in September 1645, and was sentenced to death in Edinburgh by an Act of Parliament in 1650.
- Today in 1580 saw the birth of geographer, Robert Gordon of Straloch, near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. The first graduate of Aberdeen’s Marischal college, Gordon’s devotion to geography and the antiquities of Britain led to his eventual celebrity. At this time, there were only three maps of Scotland in existence, which were inaccurate and dissatisfactory. Gordon was the first to make geographical surveys of Scotland by mensuration, a tedious and laborious process never undertaken by any of his predecessors. Following this success, in 1641 King Charles requested Gordon assist the Dutch publishers of Blaeu’s Atlas, using Timothy Pont’s original maps of Scotland as a base, for the Scottish section of the celebrated atlas. The University in Aberdeen was named after Gordon’s namesake, his grandson (1655 – 1732), who achieved wealth as a Danzig merchant.
- Today marks the anniversary of the 1595 Edinburgh High School riot. During the riot, John MacMorran, the wealthy magistrate, was shot and killed by one of the schoolboys, William Sinclair. The pupils occupied the school, barricading themselves into a classroom, in opposition to the authorities’ proposal to reduce holidays. To this day, you can see Bailie MacMorran’s house in Riddles Court, off the Lawnmarket in Edinburgh.
- Today marks the anniversary of The “Hector” leaving Loch Broom, near Ullapool, in 1773, carrying around 200 emigrants bound for the New World. The ship was sailing for Pictou, Nova Scotia, and signifies the early depopulation of the Highlands, heralding the start of a wave of Scottish immigration to Canada. The ship had been transporting immigrants for years, including a batch of Scots to Boston in 1770, but this was its maiden voyage to Canada. The settlers were offered a free passage, free provisions for a year and a farm in the new land. The arduous voyage took 11 weeks, the rotting boat was battered by storms and smallpox and dysentry claimed the lives of 18 children. On reaching the destination, the promised rewards of cleared lands and shelter did not materialise, and more hardship awaited the emigrants, as the “Pictou people” moved inland from the coast in search of shelter. Survive they did however, and it is estimated that today there are more than 140,000 descendants of these emigrants living in Canada and the United States.
- Today in 1951 saw the birth of rugby player Andy Irvine. He played as full back at national level between 1972 and 1982. During this time, he won 51 caps for Scotland, and on his retirement was Scotland’s most capped player. He also won 9 caps for the British Lions and is regarded as one of the all-time greats of Scottish rugby.
- On this day in 1745, Jacobite forces routed Hanoverian dragoons on the outskirts of Edinburgh in what was known as the Canter of Coltbrig. At the beginning of September Charles had entered Perth. He had then crossed the Forth unopposed at the Fords of Frew and, after passing through Stirling and Linlithgow, he arrived within a few miles of Edinburgh.
- On this day in 1771, Tobias Smollett, Scottish novelist and playwright, died. Author of ‘The Adventures of Roderick Random’ and ‘The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle’, Smollett is considered to be the first Scottish novelist and was one of the favourite authors of Charles Dickens. Born near Renton in Dumbartonshire, he studied medicine at the University of Glasgow before moving to London and becoming a surgeon’s apprentice. He sailed on one of the vessels of the Carthagena expedition of 1741 as a surgeon’s mate. On his return, he embarked upon his literary career. ‘The Adventures of Roderick Random’, based largely upon his experiences at sea, was published in 1748 and became an instant bestseller. In addition to his novels, he translated Voltaire, and wrote satires, plays and history. He was frequently involved in personal disputes, and was imprisoned at one point for libel. Smollett’s health worsened from 1763 onwards due to tuberculosis and he travelled extensively in France and Italy in search of a cure, chronicling his experiences in ‘Travels and France and Italy’. He did not live to see himself fully appreciated critically, and ‘Ode to Independence’, his most famous poem, was published posthumously.
- Death in 1869 of John Elder, marine engineer and shipbuilder. Elder invented the compound steam engine in 1854 which, by using the same steam twice, reduced the coal consumption of steam ships and increased the payload. Earlier in 1869, he had been unanimously elected as President of the Institute of Engineers and Ship Builders in Scotland. However, he died before he was able to attend his presentation.
- David Dunbar Buick was born at 26 Green Street, Arbroath on this day in 1854.He emigrated to the USA with his parents at the age of two. Although he founded the Buick Manufacturing Company which later became General Motors, it was William C. Durant who insured that the company grew successfully.
- This day in 1818 saw the pioneering Theatre Royal, Glasgow, become the first theatre in Britain to be lit by gas. The Gas Company had been incorporated in June, 1817, and was ready to supply gas, but had much difficulty in finding customers. The Queen Street Theatre’s consent to be “illuminated with sparkling gas” in the presence of a large and fashionable audience was a significant advance.
- On this day in 1959 forty seven miners were killed in Scotland’s worst pit disaster of the century at Auchengeich Colliery, Chryston, Lanarkshire. The smoke from a fire caused by electrical fault 1,000 ft below the surface engulfed the bogies carrying the miners to work. Only one man escaped. Rescue workers were unable to reach the trapped men because of the persistence of the fire, and later that evening the decision was taken to flood the pit.
- On this day in 1778, Henry, Lord Brougham, the Scottish Whig statesman and jurist was born in Edinburgh. Educated in Edinburgh, Brougham was called to the Scottish Bar in 1800. He moved to England in 1805 and spent the rest of his working life there. Entering Parliament in 1810, he became Lord Chancellor in 1830. An active campaigner against slavery and for law reform and national education, he helped set up the Central Criminal Court and helped pass both the Reform Bill of 1832 and the act abolishing slavery in Britain. Whilst in Edinburgh he helped found the Edinburgh Review and was a prolific contributor. Brougham also played a part in the founding of London University, and in 1820 acted as defence for Queen Caroline. In later life he retired to Cannes to write his memoirs, which were published posthumously in 1871.
- 19th September 1806 saw the birth of William Dyce, the painter and educator. Dyce was born in Aberdeen and studied in Edinburgh and London. He twice visited Italy, where he gained an appreciation of early Italian art and was also influenced by the German Nazarenes who were at that time settled in Rome. He was a precursor of the Pre-Raphaelites in both subject and style, painting with a highly detailed realism as illustrated by his best known work, Pegwell Bay, Kent, now held in the Tate Gallery in London. Dyce also pioneered the teaching of art education in state schools.
- On this day in 1842 Sir James Dewar was born in Kincardine on the Forth. Dewar was a student and later a lecturer at Edinburgh University. He then moved south to England; first to Cambridge and then to London. At the time, the facilites in London were much better for conducting experiments, and he did most of his most well known work there. He is principally remembered for his work on the liquefication of gases at low temperatures. By 1891 he was able to produce liquid oxygen, and by 1898, liquid hydrogen. In order to store liquefied oxygen, in about 1872 he invented a double walled flask, the Dewar flask, which was an early version of the thermos flask. From about 1891 he became interested in the study of explosives and produced, together with Frederick Abel, the smokeless explosive cordite.
- In 1967, the last of the great passenger liners, the QE2, was launched by the Queen at John Brown’s Shipyard in Clydebank. The ship was not named after the Queen, but rather was the second ship to bear that name. This is why the Arabic ‘2’ is used in the name rather than the Roman numerals used by the Queen. The ship made its maiden voyage in 1969. Still in service today, the ship logged 5 million miles at sea in August 2002.
- On this day in 1756 John McAdam, the surveyor who introduced the ‘macadam’ system of road surfacing, was born in Ayr. MacAdam spent his childhood in New York but returned to Scotland in 1783 having made enough money to purchase an estate in Ayrshire. He noticed that the roads on the estate were in very poor condition and undertook a series of experiments to find a better material to surface roads with. MacAdam moved to the south coast of England in 1798 after being forced to sell his estate to pay business debts, where he continued his experiments and in 1815 was appointed Surveyor to the Bristol Roads. His works “Remarks on the Present System of Road-Making” (1816) and “A Practical Essay on the Scientific Repair and Preservation of Roads” (1819) document his work and a parliamentary enquiry of 1823 led to the adoption of his ideas by public authorities. The picture shows a silhouette by Augustin Edouart from 1827, the year that McAdam was appointed general surveyor of roads.
- The novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott died aged 61 on this day in 1832. Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh in 1771 but was sent to live on his grandfather’s farm near Kelso after he contracted poliomyelitis at the age of 18 months. He stayed there until 1777, and it is thought that it during his period of convalescence that he absorbed the historical and literary culture of the Borders, having heard the traditional ballads and legends about the Border heroes and reivers. Scott is best known for his novels such as The Heart of Midlothian, Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, and The Fair Maid of Perth. However, he also published translations, reviewed extensively, and wrote historical tracts. Regarded in his day as one of the greatest writers, Scott’s reputation since then has been subject to intense scrutiny and he has been criticised for presenting a mythical, overly romantic image of Scotland.
- On September 21 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stuart emerged victorious at the Battle of Prestonpans. The Jacobite army of just over 3,000 under Bonnie Prince Charlie heavily defeated the English Royal forces led by Sir John Cope. This episode gave rise to the famous Jacobite song “Johnnie Cope.”
- On this day in 1931 the politician George Younger (Viscount Younger of Leckie) was born. Under Margaret Thatcher Younger served as Secretary of State for Scotland from 1979 to1986. He was then appointed as Secretary of State for Defence following Michael Heseltine’s resignation over the Westland affair. Later, Younger became Chairman of The Royal Bank of Scotland. He died in January 2003 aged 71 after a battle with cancer.
- On this day in 1990 Alex Salmond defeated Margaret Ewing by 486 votes to 186 to become National Convenor of the Scottish National Party. Born in Linlithgow in 1954, Salmond joined the SNP in 1973, entering the House of Commons in 1987 as member of Parliament for Banff and Buchan. After becoming SNP leader in 1990, he stayed in the post for 10 years. Salmond is credited with improving the credibility of the SNP by projecting a moderate image and presenting the party as a realistic alternative to the Labour Party. Alex Salmond He supported the Labour Government’s proposals for devolution, viewing it as a stepping stone to full independence.
- On this day in 1880, John Boyd Orr, Nobel Peace prize winner in 1949, was born in Kilmaurs, Ayrshire. Orr studied at Glasgow University before being appointed as director of a nutritional research unit near Aberdeen. However, when the war broke out Boyd Orr joined the army, where he won the MC and the DSC before joining the Royal Navy. He was an advisor to the government on nutrition during the Second World War, and in 1945 he was appointed Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. He argued for an international food policy based on need rather than trade but failed to persuade the FAO to set up an international body to supervise food production. Orr was knighted in 1932, granted a baronety in 1949 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961- only the second awarded to a Scot.
- On this day in 704 St Adamnan died. St Adamnan was the successor to Columba as the Abbot of Iona and, in about 690, he wrote ‘Life of Columba’ which described in detail the life of his predecessor, many of them crediting Columba with performing miracles. As such Adamnan helped to establish the cult of Columba. Although he is primarily remembered as Columba’s biographer, he seems to have had a large impact on the spread of Christianity, particularly in the Pictish lands of the North East. He also drew up the ‘Law of Innocents’ which attempted to protect women, children and those in Holy Orders from war. Iona Abbey Admanan managed to get this agreement signed by the Irish Kings as well as those of the Dalriada and Picts. In his time, he was probably as important as Columba, but by so effectively establishing the historical reputation and cult of Columba, his contribution is now somewhat overlooked.
- On this day 1887 Victor Hope, Lord Linlithgow, was born. Lord Linlithgow held the office of Viceroy of India from 1936 to 1943, the longest period the office was held by one single man. Although he believed that British rule in India would last another 50 years, he is credited with furthering the cause of independence through his introduction of reforms such as the expansion of provincial autonomy. Linlithgow was responsible for suppressing opposition to Britain during WWII, and for organising the country’s opposition to Japan. However, in the process he alienated the Congress Party and ignored signs of a famine in Bengal. He also encouraged sectarianism in politics which has been said by some commentators to have made the demand for Pakistan overwhelming. After he was relieved of his position, he became chancellor of Edinburgh University, a position he held until his death.
- On this day in 1332 Edward, the son of John Balliol, was crowned at Scone. After imprisonment in England and his subsequent release to France, he was recalled to England in 1324. Many Scots regarded him as rightful heir to the throne, and during an Anglo-Scots peace in 1332 he sailed from the Humber to Fife and overcame a Scots army at Dupplin. He was chased out and took refuge behind English armies. He ruled as a puppet king during the reign of David II until 1356 when he was dismissed by Edward III.
- On this day in 1875 John Hughes Bennett, the pioneer microscopist, died. John Hughes Bennett was born in London but obtained his MD at Edinburgh. After studying in Paris and Germany, he returned to Edinburgh in 1841 to lecture on histology and was professor of the Institutes of Medicine there from 1843-1874. He introduced cod liver oil into medical use and gave the first definite description of leukaemia. Today, the John Hughes Bennett Laboratory at the University of Edinburgh carries out research in the field of haematology.
- On 25th September 1703 Archibald Campbell, 10th Earl and 1st Duke of Argyll, died. One of two commissioners who offered the Scottish Crown to William and Mary, he organised the Massacre of Glencoe when 38 of the MacDonalds were killed when they refused to submit to William III.
- On this day in 1915 James Kier Hardie, the Scottish Labour statesman, died. At the age of eight, Hardie worked as a delivery boy for a baker and was the sole wage earner in his family. In January 1866, he was sacked for unpunctuality after spending the night looking after his dying brother and arriving late for work. The family then moved to Lanarkshire where he got a job as a miner. Hardie never attended school, but by the age of seventeen had learned to write, and began to read newspaper accounts describing the steps that some workers were taking to improve their conditions by forming trade unions. His political career began with the formation of a union at his colliery and he led the first ever Lanarkshire miners’ strike. Hardie was initially a supporter of the Liberal Party but soon formed the opinion that the working class needed their own party to represent them. His first attempt to enter the House of Commons in 1888 ended in failure, but he was elected as the first socialist MP in 1892 when he was returned as the Independent Labour candidate for West Ham South. He lost his seat in 1895, but was returned in 1900 as the MP for Merthyr Tydfil.
- On this day in 1994 Jessie Kesson, the author of Another Time Another Place, died. She was born an illegitimate child in the workhouse in Inverness in 1916. When her mother fell ill, Jessie was removed from her care, and she grew up in an orphanage in Aberdeenshire. Although encouraged by her schoolmaster to attend university, this was against orphanage policy and she was sent into farm service. She suffered a nervous breakdown through frustration of her talents and spent a year in a mental hospital.
- Throughout the 1940s and 50s she wrote over 30 plays and programmes for BBC Radio Aberdeen and gradually became an acclaimed writer. She moved first to Glasgow and then to London and continued to produce more plays and novels, including ‘Another Time, Another Place’, based on the experiences of Italian prisoners of war on Orkney.
- On this day 1938 the liner Queen Elizabeth, then the largest passenger ship ever built, launched at John Brown’s shipyard, Clydebank. In 1930, Cunard decided to build two giant liners to operate a weekly service across the Atlantic to the USA. Work started on the Queen Mary in December of the same year, but due to the deepening world recession the second liner, the Queen Elizabeth, was not commissioned until 1936. The ship was 1,031 feet (314 m) long and 118.5 feet (36 m) wide and had a draft of 38 feet (11.6 m). Fitting out was not complete at the declaration of war in 1939 and in 1940 she sailed to New York to avoid the danger of enemy bombing. She was so fast that her convoy escorts could not keep up with her. The Queen Elizabeth served as a troop ship during the war and entered service as a transatlantic liner in 1946. In 1969 she was sold to become a home for Hong Kong’s Seawise University and was destroyed by fire during refitting in Hong Kong Harbour in 1972.
- On this day in 1831, the first passenger railway in Scotland was opened between Glasgow and Garnkirk in Lanarkshire. The line had been operating as a goods only service since May. The railway was financed by Charles Tennant & Company, the chemical manufacturers based at St Rollox, and the opening of this line was the start of an association with the railway industry which went on to make Springburn Europe’s largest manufacturer of locomotives. The line was extended to Coatbridge in 1843 and Whifflet two years later, and, apart from the original Townhead terminus, is still open.
- In 1396 the Battle of the Clans took place on the North Inch, Perthshire. A long running feud between the powerful Chattan (or Mackintosh) and Mackay (or Kay) clans was settled by this fight to the death. Legend has it that the Chattans were one man short and paid a local saddler to join them for the price of ‘half a French gold dollar’. Luckily for him he had joined the winning side. By the time King Robert III, who was watching the battle with several of his court, signalled the end of the contest only one of the 30 Mackays had survived after swimming to safety across the Tay. Ten of the Chattans and the saddler also survived.
- Today in 1581 George Buchanan, historian, scholar and tutor of King James VI, died. Born in the village of Moss in Stirlingshire, he spent time studying and teaching in St Andrews and Paris before being appointed as tutor to an illegitimate son of James V. Imprisoned for writing a satire on the Franciscans, he escaped and fled to the continent where he continued to write and translate, but was later imprisoned again as a heretic in Portugal. He returned to Scotland in 1561 where he became tutor to Mary, Queen of Scots.
- He was intensely loyal to Mary until the murder of Darnley, in which she was heavily implicated, after which he actively campaigned against her. When Mary was brought to trial, he had a hand in preparing the famous ‘Casket Letters’ which led to her execution. He then became tutor to Mary’s son, James VI. James was undoubtedly one of the most educated kings of Scots thanks to Buchanan, but was so afraid of his tutor that by the time Buchanan died, he had grown to dislike him intensely. Buchanan is buried in Greyfriars’ Churchyard in Edinburgh.
- On this day in 1952 John Cobb made an attempt at the world water-speed record on Loch Ness which ended in tragedy as the boat crashed and Cobb was killed. Cobb was a racing driver who had broken the land speed record in 1938, 1939, and 1947, when he became the first man ever to attain a speed of 400 miles per hour on land. In 1952 he made an attempt on the water speed record. On his first run, he became the first person to break the 200 miles per hour barrier, but his boat crashed shortly afterwards and he was killed.
- On this day in 1902 William Topaz McGonagall, died. McGonagall has earned the title of ‘World’s Worst Poet’. During the Dundee holiday week of 1877, he ‘discovered’ himself to be a poet and published his first book of verse in 1878, a collection which included his poem ‘The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay’. He became well known in Scotland, giving readings and recitations, but he was often booked simply to amuse the audience at his expense. He was frequently the butt of jokes of students at the University of Edinburgh who encouraged him to take himself seriously. He remained convinced that he was a poetic genius and tried to seek success in both London and, in 1887, New York. He was unable to find work and eventually had to ask a friend to send him the return fare.
- On this day in 1813 John Rae, explorer and surveyor of Canada’s northern coastline was born in Orkney. Several Orkney born explorers worked in the Canadian Arctic in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company, but Rae was the most outstanding. He received The Royal Geographical Society’s Founder’s Gold Medal in 1852 for the scientific results of his first two explorations, but it is for the achievements on his third journey that he is best remembered. In 1845, John Franklin had disappeared trying to find the North West Passage. Several attempts to locate the party were made, but in 1854 Rae discovered the first traces of the Franklin expedition. All members of the expedition had died either due to hunger or cold. He used the reward money he received for locating the missing explorers to buy a schooner and spent the next few years doing survey work in Canada, mostly for the overland telegraph.
- On this day in 1928, Alexander Fleming announced of the discovery of penicillin. Born in Ayrshire in 1881, Fleming qualified from medical school in 1906 after which he became a bacteriologist. In 1928, Fleming was studying staphylococci bacteria at St Mary’s Hospital in London, having returned there after service in the Medical Corps during the war. He noticed that an accidental growth of mould, identified as Penicillium notatum, inhibited growth of the bacteria. He named it penicillin.
- Although he was aware of the significance of his find, he was unable to produce a large enough quantity of penicillin to use on humans as he did not have the means to isolate the active compound. 12 years later, Chain and Florey developed a production method, spurred on by the need for antibacterial drugs created by World War II. Fleming was knighted in 1944, and he shared the Nobel Prize with Chain and Florey in 1945.
And so ends September in Scottish History